Today is Monday, the first workday of the Thanksgiving week, and I do not have to look far to find something for which I am thankful. I am thankful for a jail cell.
That may sound funny to you, that I'm thankful for a jail cell. Let me clarify. I am eternally thankful for an empty jail cell. You see, I have had the enviable pleasure of hearing God's word taught by different pastors throughout the years, each of whose style and conviction has been his own. And I have to say, Pastor Patrick McGue II of the Paden City Church of the Nazarene has a style all his own. He is passionate, humble, and fearless. But more important than all else, he is a man who loves God, and he preached passionately and unreservedly this weekend on an empty jail cell.
Pastor Patrick explained it something like this, one day you are in jail – it's an old fashioned prison – and you are chained to the wall, your hands shackled above your head, and even your visitors cannot come to you because the cell door is locked and you are never let loose from the wall. But one day a man opens the cell door, unchains you from the wall, and gives you the choice to walk free – all you have to do is accept the freedom he is offering you. Would you say "thank you" and walk out of the cell, or would you reject his offer and shackle yourself back to the wall?
And once you leave the building, do you hide in fear of being found out, maybe run right out and get back into trouble, or do you scream at the top of your lungs, "I'm free! I'm free!" and go live your free life?
Over the course of the weekend, Pastor Patrick preached primarily on three verses, and he made those verses come alive. His sermon on Saturday night and again on Sunday morning was based on Colossians 1:3-14, but his focus was on the last three verses.
"and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light. For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins." (Col 1:12-14, NIV)
The simple truth of that scripture is that our loving God sent his one and only son to stand trial and suffer the judgment of death for our sins, and that He welcomes us into His kingdom freely, at no cost to us. In return for that freedom, He challenges us to tell others about this freedom, and all He asks is that we do not willingly go back into bondage. That's right. We can live freely and not do a thing in return. Now, He points us to the other cells and gives us directions to the rooftop, but He doesn't require us to say or do a single thing to reap the rewards of the freedom He has bought with His blood. That, Christians, is something we can all be thankful for. The joy that comes from knowing I never have to go back into that cell is a freedom worth giving thanks. The joy that comes from knowing you can escape the same cell is a message worth shouting from the rooftops.
So, my challenge to you, if you are at all interested in hearing about that freedom from someone whose passion is unbridled and whose love for God is unwavering, if you are close enough to make the trip and can join a group of sinners who have been set free from our cells, is to put the Paden City Church of the Nazarene into your GPS on Sunday morning and show up to 104 S. 5th Ave, Paden City, WV 26159 at ten o'clock (10:00 am) and hear for yourself the Good News, the truth of God, unbridled, unabridged, un-doctored and untamed. You don't even have to dress up. Our pastor doesn't even wear shoes!
–Mark Klages is an influential contributor, a former US Marine and a lifelong teacher who focuses on applying a Christian worldview to everyday events. Mark blogs at https://maklagesl3.wixsite.com/website under the title "God Provides where Hate Divides," with a heart to heal social, political, relational, and intellectual wounds through God's divine love and grace. Mark can also be found on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/mark-klages-04b42511/.